Britain and Ireland: Union, Conflict, and Independence, 1798-1949 (HIH2024A)

StaffDr Gemma Clark - Convenor
Credit Value30
ECTS Value15
NQF Level5
Duration of Module Term 2: 11 weeks;

Module aims

The module begins with the 1798 insurrection and subsequent reinforcement of British rule in Ireland through the 1800 Act of Union. It examines nationalist movements – including Fenianism, Home Rule and Irish republicanism – that resisted British control of Ireland, in the more than a century that followed. A key aim of the module is thus to develop knowledge and understanding of Anglo-Irish relations during 1798–1949 and the political, legal and violent processes through which, by the Ireland Act of 1949, the south of Ireland achieved full independence from Britain, whilst the partitioned North remained in the UK. The module also aims to develop understanding of Ireland’s (predominantly rural and Catholic) society and culture during this period and, in doing so, to engage you with important topics such as religion, land rights, gender relations, identity and violence.


Through secondary reading, primary-source analysis and other learning activities, the module will also foster transferable skills in research, analysis, and written and oral communication. The module encourages, further, the development of discipline-specific skills, including sensitivity to historical controversy and awareness of the sectarian and ideological agendas that can beset the study of recent and ongoing conflicts. 

ILO: Module-specific skills

  • 1. Have a detailed knowledge of the main themes in the subject, together with a very close knowledge of the areas selected for essay and presentation work.
  • 2. Trace the changing nature of, and approaches to, Anglo-Irish relations, and Irish politics and society, during 1798–1949.

ILO: Discipline-specific skills

  • 3. Analyse the key developments in Irish nationalism and British governance of Ireland, and Irish society and culture.
  • 4. Handle profoundly different approaches to history in a contested area that has strong contemporary resonances and ongoing (and sometimes violent) political/constitutional legacies.
  • 5. Understand and deploy complex political and constitutional terminology in a comprehensible manner.

ILO: Personal and key skills

  • 6. Independently study and also work within a group, including the presentation of material for group discussion, developed through the mode of learning.
  • 7. Digest, select and organise material to produce, to a deadline, a coherent and cogent argument, developed through the mode of assessment.
  • 8. Present arguments orally, and to work in a group.

Syllabus plan

Lecture topics may include:

  • 1798: Rebellion

  • The Act of Union and resisting the Union: Catholics, Emancipation and Repeal

  • Land questions: Ireland before the Famine

  • The Great Irish Famine: Demographic, political, transnational impacts

  • Irish diaspora: Great Britain, America and Australia

  • The roots of Home Rule and the Irish Question in British parliamentary politics

  • Parnellism and land agitation since the Famine

  • Southern Unionism and the Ulster Question

  • The Irish Parliamentary Party and the end of the Union, 1891–1914

  • Radical politics in the early twentieth century

  • 1910–16: Third Home Rule Bill, World War I and Rising

  • Revolution and Civil War, 1916–23

  • Establishing the new states

  • The Free State, Eire and the road to a republic

  • Northern Ireland and the roots of the Troubles


Seminar topics may include:

  • Religion and power in Ireland

  • Ulster and Unionism

  • The Fenian tradition and early nationalism

  • Popular faith and culture in Ireland

  • Land rights and economic lives

  • Constitutionalism and physical force: Competing methods of resistance?

  • Separatism and the new politics of twentieth-century Ireland

  • Militarism, global war and commemoration

  • Gender relations

Learning activities and teaching methods (given in hours of study time)

Scheduled Learning and Teaching ActivitiesGuided independent studyPlacement / study abroad

Details of learning activities and teaching methods

CategoryHours of study timeDescription
Scheduled Learning and Teaching Activities22Lecture (22 x1hr)
Scheduled Learning and Teaching Activities22Seminars (11 x2hr)
Guided independent study22Web-based activities located on ELE – preparation for seminars and presentations
Guided independent study234Reading and preparation for seminars and presentations

Formative assessment

Form of assessmentSize of the assessment (eg length / duration)ILOs assessedFeedback method
Essay Plan500 words1-7Verbal and Written

Summative assessment (% of credit)

CourseworkWritten examsPractical exams

Details of summative assessment

Form of assessment% of creditSize of the assessment (eg length / duration)ILOs assessedFeedback method
Essay303,000 words1-6Verbal and Written
Group Presentation2025 minutes1-7Peer-assessed and moderated by tutor
Exam502 hours1-6Written

Details of re-assessment (where required by referral or deferral)

Original form of assessmentForm of re-assessmentILOs re-assessedTimescale for re-assessment
Essay3,000 words essay1-6Referral/Deferral period
Group PresentationScript as for individual presentation, equivalent to 10 minutes1-7Referral/Deferral period
Exam2 hours1-7Referral/Deferral period

Re-assessment notes

The re-assessment consists of a 3,000 word essay and 2-hour exam, as in the original assessment, but replaces participation in the group presentation with a written script that could be delivered in such a presentation and which is the equivalent of 10 minutes of speech.

Indicative learning resources - Basic reading

Basic reading

Sean J. Connolly, The Oxford companion to Irish history (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2002) – available as ebook

R.F. Foster, Modern Ireland, 1600–1972 (London: Allen Lane, The Penguin Press, 1988)

Alvin Jackson, Ireland, 1798–1998: War, peace and beyond (2nd ed., Chichester, West Sussex; Malden, MA: Wiley-Blackwell, 2010) – available as ebook

Alvin Jackson, Two Unions: Ireland, Scotland, and the survival of the United Kingdom, 1707–2007 (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2011) – available as ebook

W.E. Vaughan, A new history of Ireland, vol. V: Ireland under the Union, I: 1801–1870 and vol. VI: Ireland under the Union, II: 1870–1921 (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2009 and 2010) – available as ebooks


ELECollege to provide hyperlink to appropriate pages containing more specialist secondary readings and primary sources related to each given topic. E.g., for a possible seminar on Land and Famine:


Cormac Ó Gráda, Black ’47 and beyond: The Great Irish Famine in history, economy and memory (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1999): ‘The potato’, p. 13–24; ‘Did England sleep?’, p. 77–83

RTE, Radio documentary[]: ‘Blighted Nation’, Episode 2: ‘Did the British cause the Famine?’

David Nally, Chapter 5, ‘The colonial dimensions of the Great Irish Famine’, in John Crowley, William J. Smyth and Mike Murphy (eds.), Atlas of the Great Irish Famine, 1845–52 (Cork: Cork University Press, 2012)

John Hughes, ‘A Lecture on the Antecedent Causes of the Irish Famine in 1847’ (New York, 1847) – available online

John Mitchel, Jail Journal, or, five years in British prisons… (1854): Chapter V – available online via

Module has an active ELE page?


Indicative learning resources - Web based and electronic resources

Web based and electronic resources

Freely available:

Historic parliamentary debates from Ireland [] and UK []

History Hub [podcasts from UCD School of History and Archives at]

National Archives of Ireland, Chief Secretary’s Office Registered Papers []


Databases accessed through Library:

Oxford Dictionary of National Biography

Dictionary of Irish Biography

The Historical Guardian and Observer

The Historical Irish Times

The Times Digital Archive

House of Commons Parliamentary Papers

The Illustrated London News Historical Archive

C19: The Nineteenth Century Index

Indicative learning resources - Other resources

Other resources: A full list to be provided on ELE

Available as distance learning?


Origin date


Last revision date


Key words search

Modern history; Ireland; Britain; Union; nationalism; politics; governance; society; violence